A garden is at its best when it has a well-rounded selection of flowers, shrubs, and trees. We have already gone over some of the great native flowers that can be planted in Maryland gardens, so now we’re going to talk about some of the amazing native shrubs that should be considered. This is not an exhaustive list, but it will hopefully give you some ideas on what kind of options you’re looking for when it comes to adding native shrubs to your Maryland garden.
There are quite a few native shrubs that Marylanders can plant on their properties and in their gardens. There are also several almost-native options that can be planted due to their adaptability to the available climate.
Common witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is a deciduous shrub that is sometimes called a small tree due to the fact that it reaches heights of 8-20 feet. It prefers shade or partial shade and moist soil, but this plant can tolerate full sun and soil that is slightly drier. The leaves of the common witchhazel are reddish-bronze but begin to turn yellow in the autumn. The golden yellow flowers bloom from October through November, coming in while this large shrub sheds its leaves.
Common witchhazel provides resources to local wildlife late into the season, which is a huge benefit for the creatures around you. The seeds explode out from the tree, supporting ground-foraging birds such as the Ruffed Grouse, Northern Bobwhite, and Wild Turkey. The blooms are beneficial to several species of moths, gnats, and small bees. In addition, the low horizontal branches of this deciduous shrub provide the perfect nesting area for birds such as Wood Thrushes and Flycatchers.
The hillside blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum), also known locally as low-bush blueberry, grows to a height of 1½-2 feet tall. It can tolerate anything from shade to full sun and prefers soil that is well-drained and acidic. This shrub blooms from April to May with delicate white and pink flowers. You can pick the blueberries to have for yourself or leave some or all of them for the local wildlife to enjoy, including creatures such as orioles and box turtles. The blooms are beneficial to pollinators such as bumble bees and hummingbird moths. In addition, this plant is a host to several species of butterflies.
Leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana or Leucothoe axillaris) is an evergreen flowering shrub commonly known as doghobble that reaches heights of 4-6 feet. These shrubs prefer shade to partial sun, and the soil should be damp but well-drained. These shrubs produce large clusters of hanging, bell-shaped, white blossoms in the spring.
These plants are not actually native to Maryland, but they have been found to grow non-invasively in some areas of central Maryland. These species are considered ‘near-native’ because they can be planted in gardens to create more resilient plants that are adaptable to the environment thanks to the changing climate.
The mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) is a deciduous shrub that grows 3-6 feet tall. It prefers partial sun and moist soil but is very tolerant of full shade and drought conditions. It produces clusters of white flowers from May through June. In the fall, the leaves of this plant typically turn pinkish-red, but they may turn varying shades of red, yellow, or even purple. These shrubs produce blue-black berries that are an excellent food source for several bird species, including the American Robin and Cedar Waxwing. This shrub is also a host plant for the spring azure butterfly.
Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is a deciduous shrub that grows 3-5 feet tall. It prefers partial shade and damp, well-drained soil and should be planted in groups. This shrub produces blooms that range in color from light green to white starting in June. If the dead flowers are removed, they may bloom again in August or September. It is a good food source for pollinators and birds, and it is a host plant for the hydrangea sphinx moth caterpillar.
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